How can I maintain my highs?

As I evaluate my mental health, I notice a regular pattern in which i’m feeling my best for some time, and after a slight inconvenience, i fall back into sluggish moods and routines. For example, I was being productive, happy and enthousiastic the whole summer until my dog had surgery two weeks ago, and ever since, I’ve been struggling to enjoy things the way I did. And I know that eventually i’ll get hold of myself again, but I don’t want to lose it again. We all go through ups and downs mentally, but I just want tips to make my highs last longer and my lows to be less exhausting.
Asked by whitealoefin
Answered
12/06/2021

Hello,

 

Thank you for reaching out today.  Perhaps to maintain an even keel with your high times of being in a good place with your routines in your life you may want to look at what you are doing while you are 'feeling good about your routine.  To check that you are not overstretching yourself too thinly so that you quickly fizzle out over the 'slightest inconvenient thing'.  Once you have done your 'self-check you might want to consider a 'getting back on track plan' for yourself when you notice you are off routine, feel more sluggish, less high and so on.

 

Get Back on Track: 7 Strategies to Help You Bounce Back After Slipping Up

 

We have all been there - you follow your diet religiously for a week and then break it with a weekend binge. You commit to working out more, hit the gym for two days, and then struggle to get off the couch after a long day of work. You set a vision for your career and get excited by the possibilities, only to get dragged down in everyday responsibilities and not return to your dream until months later.

It may be worth realizing something important:

These small hiccups do not make you a failure, they make you human. The most successful people in the world slip up on their habits too. What separates them is not their willpower and motivation. It is their ability to get back on track quickly.

There will always be instances when following your regular routine is basically impossible. You do not need superhuman willpower, you just need strategies that can pull you back on track Habit formation hinges on your ability to bounce back.

With that said, here are seven strategies that you can use to get back on track and bounce back right now.

1. Schedule your habits in your life.

Give your habits a specific space in your life. There are two main options for making this happen.

Option 1: Put it on your calendar.

Want to get back on track with your writing schedule? 9 am on Monday morning. Butt in chair. Hands-on keyboard. That is when this is happening.

Want to bounce back with your exercise habit? Give yourself a time and place that it needs to happen. 6 pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I will see you in the gym.

Option 2: Tie it to your current behavior.

Not all of your habits will fit a specific time frame, but they all should have a trigger that acts as a reminder to do them.

Want to floss? Every day after brushing your teeth. Same order, the same way, every time.

Want to be happier? Every time you stop at a red light, tell yourself one thing you are grateful for. The red light is the reminder. Same trigger, same sequence, every time.

The bottom line is this: it might be good to tell yourself that you are going to change, but getting specific makes it real and gives you a reason and a reminder to get back on track whenever you slip up.

Soon is not a time and some is not a number. When and where, exactly, are you going to do this? You might forget once, but what system do you have in place to automatically remind you the next time?

For more on how to develop a sequence for your habits, consider:

2. Stick to your schedule, even in small ways.

It is not the individual impact of missing your schedule that is a big deal. It’s the cumulative impact of never getting back on track. If you miss one workout, you do not suddenly feel more out of shape than you were before.

For that reason, it's critical to stick to your schedule, even if it is only in a very small way.

Don't have enough time to do a full workout? Just squat.

Don't have enough time to write an article? Write a paragraph.

Don't have enough time to do yoga? Take ten seconds to breathe.

Don't have enough time to go on vacation? Give yourself a mini-break and drive to the neighboring town.

Individually, these behaviors seem pretty insignificant. But it is not the individual impact that makes a difference. It's the cumulative impact of always sticking to your schedule that will carry you to long–term success.

Find a way to stick to the schedule, no matter how small it is.

3. Have someone who expects something of you.

When you have friends, teammates, and coaches expecting you to be at practice? You show up.

The good news is that you do not have to be on a team to make this work. Talk to strangers and make friends in the gym. Simply knowing that a familiar face expects to see you can be enough to get you to show up.

4. Focus on what you can work with.

We waste so much time focusing on what is withheld from us.

This is especially true after we slip up and get off track of our goals. Anytime we do not do the things we want to do - start a business, eat healthily, go to the gym - we tend to come up with excuses…

“I don't have enough money. I don't have enough time. I don't have the right contacts. I don't have enough experience. I need to learn more. I'm not sure what to do. I feel uncomfortable and stupid.”

Here is what you might consider thinking instead:

“I can work with this.”

Because you can. The truth is that most of us start in the same place - no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience - but some people (the winners) choose to get started anyway.

It is not easy, but your life will be better if you choose to feel uncomfortable and make progress, rather than complain and make excuses. Shift your focus from what is being withheld from you to what is available to you.

It is rare that your circumstances prevent you from making any progress. You might not like where you have to start. Your progress might be slow. But you can work with this.

5. Just because it is not optimal, does not mean it is not beneficial.

It is so easy to get hung up on doing things the optimal way and end up preventing yourself from doing them at all.

For example:

“I really want to eat Paleo, but I go to Chipotle every Friday with my friends and I like to get sour cream and cheese on my burrito and I know that's not Paleo. Plus, I have a book club meeting every Tuesday and we always have ice cream and I don't want to be the only one not joining the group. Maybe I should try something else?”

Ask yourself - Is eating clean five days per week better than not eating clean at all?

Say: Yes, I believe it is.

In fact, eating healthy one day per week is better than none at all. Make that your goal to start: eat clean every Monday.

Just because you cannot stick to the optimal schedule, does not mean you should not stick to it at all. Good habits are built gradually. Start slow, live your life, and get better along the way. Progress is a spectrum, not a specific place.

Furthermore, if you have not mastered the basics, then why make things harder for yourself by fretting about the details?

The optimal strategies will make the last 10% of the difference. Meanwhile, 90% of your results will hinge on you simply sticking to the basics: don't miss workouts, eat real food, do the most important thing first each day. Master the fundamentals now. You can optimize the details later.

6. Design your environment for success.

If you think that you need more motivation or more willpower to stick to your goals, then I have good news. You do not.

Motivation is a fickle beast. Some days you feel inspired. Some days you do not. If you want consistent change the last thing you want to rely on is something inconsistent.

Another great way to overcome this hurdle and get back on track is to design your environment for success.

Most of us acknowledge that the people who surround us influence our behaviors, but the items that surround us have an impact as well. The signs we see, the things that are on your desk at work, the pictures hanging on your wall at home - these are all pieces of our environment that can trigger us to take different actions.

For example, if you wanted to start flossing consistently, one of the most useful changes you can make is making the task as easy and simple as possible. ie taking the floss out of the drawer and keeping it next to your toothbrush on the counter. It sounds ridiculous to focus on, but the obvious most basic solution such as a visual cue can get you back on track.

With this simple environment change, you can make it easy to do the new habit or getting you back on track.

 

7. Care.

It sounds so simple, but make sure that the habits that you are trying to stick to are actually important to you.

Sometimes forgetting your habit is a sign that it is not that important to you. Most of the time this is not true, but if it happens often enough it is worth you paying attention to it. 

It can be remarkable how much time people spend chasing things that they do not really care about. Then, when they do not achieve them, they beat themselves up and feel like a failure for not achieving something that was not that important to them all along.

You only have so much energy to put towards the next 24 hours. Pick a habit that you care about. If it really matters to you, then you will find a way to make it work.

Get Back on Track

Change can be hard for most of us. In the beginning, your healthy habits might take two steps forward and one step back.

Anticipating those backward steps can make all the difference in the world. Develop a plan for getting back on track and recommit to your routine as quickly as possible.

 

Good Luck,

Kindly Gaynor

(MA, LCSW)